The following guest post is from Chris Lesley, who has been raising backyard chickens for over 20 years and is the poultry expert at the website, Chickens And More. Chris has a flock of 11 chickens (including three Silkies) and is currently teaching people all around the world how to care for healthy chickens.
With the spread of COVID-19, people all over the nation are considering raising their own backyard chickens. It’s not too surprising, since many breeds of chickens boast high production rates, have great personalities, and can even make great neighbors. Plus, raising chickens for eggs or poultry allows people to know everything about the food they’re producing. Here are some more specific reasons why backyard chickens are thriving during COVID-19, and how the virus has affected their popularity.
They Provide a Safe Food Source
Eggs that can be obtained from backyard chickens are a safe and nutritious food source. As COVID-19 continues to spread, many Americans are concerned about where their food is coming from, and some may want to avoid grocery stores. Backyard chickens provide a healthy and smart solution for those who want to maintain as much social distancing as possible.
Even after COVID-19 is no longer a concern, there are many advantages to having a flock of chickens at home. If they’re in your own backyard, you can be positive about whether they’re cage-free, organic, etc., because you are the caretaker.
Once They Start Producing, They Produce a Lot
It takes months before chickens will start producing eggs. However, once a chicken starts laying eggs, the harvest is plentiful. The amount of eggs they produce will depend on the breed:
- Plymouth Rocks produce 200-250 eggs per year.
- Rhode Island Reds produce 250-300 eggs per year.
- Leghorns produce 250-300 eggs per year.
- Hybrids, including California Whites and Golden Comets, produce 250-300 eggs per year.
Receiving that many eggs from each chicken is enough to keep any family well fed long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, and then some!
They Make Great Companions
Dealing with social distancing hasn’t been easy for many people. As a result, some are finding comfort and joy in their pets, and chickens are no exception. Besides producing an abundant supply of eggs, many breeds of chickens are great companions for adults and children alike. Some of the most popular companion chickens are Cochins, Polishes, and Silkies. All three of these bird breeds are extremely friendly, docile, and cuddly too—plus they love to sit on laps! While they produce fewer eggs compared to some of the top layers, they still provide about 100-170 eggs per year.
It is important to consider all intentions before buying chickens, and to note whether companionship will still be a priority after the pandemic. Once social gatherings spots open back up and friends are reuniting, attending to chickens can’t be neglected.
Even Beginners Can Care for Them
Of the many types of livestock available, chickens are one of the easiest options to care for. Not everyone has the yard space for a herd of cattle, for instance, but a flock of chickens can even fit into small backyards. Many people have more time on their hands as they maintain social distances and stay at home. Caring for chickens isn’t too hard to fit into daily routines, even for those who have no prior experience. Some reasons that chickens are a great option right now:
- A standard chicken only needs four square feet of coop space and 8-10 square feet in the pen/run, which is very manageable compared to other species of livestock.
- There are many ways to cut costs of caring for chickens. Some chicks can be purchased for $5 each, and the coops start around $160. It is still an investment, but the payout is great!
- Once social distancing is over and everyone returns to their busy schedules, caring for them won’t get any harder. There are many automated feeders, waterers, and coop doors on the market that will allow owners to return to their normal routines.
There is Abundant Care Information Available
Don’t know what breed to buy? Don’t know the best feeding practices? Have an egg bound chicken? The ease of finding abundant information about how to raise backyard chickens has made it not only possible, but realistic for anyone to start raising their own flock. New owners who may feel inexperienced can be assured that all questions can be answered in detail online, so raising chickens will not be a failed coronavirus fad.
All in all, chickens are a great pet to care for, and a great way to obtain your own produce. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many Americans have discovered just how safe, friendly, and manageable backyard chickens can be, and only time will tell whether the chicken craze will continue. As long as the commitment is understood by buyers, it’s likely that backyard chickens will maintain popularity.Check out our Homegrown 101 on how to build a pallet wood chicken coop Read more about keeping a backyard flock!